Glyphosate is an active substance found in many herbicidal products. In December 2017, the European Union re-approved its use for a further five years.
In order to improve understanding of glyphosate's possible mechanisms of carcinogenic action and assess their relevance for humans, ANSES had issued a call for tenders in August 2019 to conduct several additional studies:
- in vitro studies to investigate the effects on human and animal cells that could be related to cellular stress following exposure to glyphosate;
- in vivo comet assays in rats and mice (on stomach, intestine, liver, kidney and pancreas) coupled with a micronucleus assay; these tests could clarify the genotoxic potential of glyphosate;
- cell transformation assays combined with the transformics method: these tests could enable glyphosate's potential modes and mechanisms of carcinogenic action to be identified in vitro.
The various proposals submitted to the Agency were examined in terms of both their relevance in response to the specifications, and the originality of the solutions proposed. An analysis of personal connections was also conducted, in order to identify any potential conflicts of interest. The selected teams are:
- the consortium coordinated by the Institut Pasteur of Lille (Institut Pasteur of Lille, CEA, University of Lille, Inserm's NuMeCan Institute, University of Toulouse, Regional Agency for Prevention, Environment and Energy, Italy [ARPAE] and LABERCA), whose programme covers the entire specifications;
- the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is proposing a novel study to explore the possible genotoxic effects following long-term exposure of cultured cells to glyphosate.
These research teams will receive overall funding of €1.2 million under the Ecophyto II+ Plan.
All of this work aims to build up the most comprehensive scientific expertise possible on the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate. The studies' results will be taken into account in the forthcoming EU re-assessment of glyphosate.